Mecham ex-aide follows new road

September 1, 1988

By Phil Boas
The Mesa Tribune

During the turmoil of Evan Mecham’s administration, press aide Ken Smith defended his leader’s policies and gaffes in the face of intense scrutiny by the state and national press.

Today, Smith remains fond of Mecham, but now that he is a private political consultant, he is advising one of his clients, state Senate candidate Bill Valentic, to keep his distance from the former governor.

Valentic, a Tempe Republican who is challenging Doug Todd, R-Tempe, for the Senate seat in District 27, has been fending off his opponent’s accusations that he is a candidate out to avenge Mecham’s impeachment.

Todd voted to impeach Mecham and to invoke the so-called Dracula clause that would have prohibited the former governor from holding state office.

Though Smith held a high-profile position in the Mecham administration, he said he doubts his role in the Valentic campaign will help feed the accusations that his candidate is a “Mechamite.”

“There’s a possibility I can hurt Valentic on raw emotional politics, but I think it could backfire on the opposition.”

Smith offered his political consulting services to many state candidates, including Todd, but was hired only by Valentic, District 27 state Rep. Bev Hermon, who voted to impeach Mecham, and Republican challenger Roland Campbell, a House candidate in Phoenix’s District 23.

Smith said he is instructing Valentic to run a clean campaign in the face of Todd’s accusations. “My instinct is that the public is tired of negative politics. When you run a negative campaign, you’re generating votes against yourself.”

Todd said he will not make an issue of Smith’s involvement in Valentic’s campaign, adding that it is up to the public to judge whether his opponent has been forthcoming about the purported Mecham connections.

“I want to stress that I’m not a Mecham clone,” Smith said. “Given the choice between Todd and Valentic, I think Bill makes a better candidate.”

To prepare Valentic for questions regarding the Mecham ties, Smith drilled him with questions the press is likely to ask, he said.

“I’ve been coaching  before he does any kind of media interview. He’s heard hard-core Mecham questions from me. It’s standard political practice to prepare newcomers.”

Because Valentic is a political newcomer running in the first state elections since the Mecham impeachment, and because he shares the former governor’s religious convictions as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Todd has accused him of being a one-issue candidate. “I think the only reason he’s running is because a lot of people are mad at my vote during the impeachment.”

Last week, Todd’s friend and political adviser Robert L’Ecuyer wrote a letter to Valentic scolding him for not admitting he is a Mecham candidate. In the letter, L’Ecuyer said Mecham told him that Valentic is his “highest priority candidate in Maricopa County.”

Mecham has denied L’Ecuyer’s accusation. Valentic said he has never met Mecham and has neither requested, nor would he accept the former governor’s support.